Masergy CEO On 'Recession-Proof' Tech Opportunities, Acceleration Plans For The Channel

Parker In Charge

Masergy Communications, a hybrid networking and cloud communications provider, has a new CEO at the helm. Telecom veteran James Parker said in September that he was joining the company, and in December, he took over for former CEO Chris MacFarland, now executive chairman and CTO for the company.

Parker, who previously served as chief customer officer at Tata Communications, is an IT veteran who is ready to go after more next-gen networking opportunities with the help of Masergy's all-important partner ecosystem, including MSPs, agents and technology partners such as Cisco Systems. He believes that cloud-based communications and SD-WAN will be huge areas for the channel, as will managed security—a "recession-proof" area of technology that businesses will need from their trusted advisers.

Here are excerpts from Parker's recent interview with CRN.

How critical are partners to the success of Masergy?

One of the core areas for us is the channel. We really have a channel-first strategy. Over 75 percent of our bookings come from the channel and we are seeing accelerated growth around SD-WAN, UC, managed security and our cloud contact center offering. We do see the channel leaning in more and more into the solution-oriented sale, and our software-defined networking offerings are starting to do well with that cross-selling motion.

The channel has been a big growth driver for us. We've seen 15 [percent] to 20 percent-plus growth in channel bookings, and that trend will continue into this year and beyond. Frankly, we are looking for different ways to accelerate that growth with the channel.

How are you evolving Masergy's channel-focus?

We've been putting a lot of focus on master [agents] and sub-agents—these partners have been a strong element of our performance, but we are looking at channel diversification and what other partner types we should be engaging. We've seen some good work from SIs in particular around the UC and contact center businesses, so we are looking at investments that can be made with those types of partners to become embedded into their solutions. We seeing that playing out in the mid to upper end of the enterprise business for us.

We also want to expand into OEM and ISV relationships and, in particular, going to market with those partners. Cisco is a key driver for us as we move forward, and that's really coming to the forefront with their acquisition of BroadSoft. We have that as a managed offering today with our own IP on top of it, and we really can service customer needs. But we are really working with Cisco to see how we can better integrate with them on direct sales but, more importantly, becoming part of their ecosystem that is focused on their partners.

How is Masergy helping partners sell more with the company?

As we see customer investments increasing, we are helping in a couple of areas. One, as we build out the number of partnerships we have, we will be adding more channel managers and, almost as important, more solution engineers and product specialists dedicated to the channel.

There's also a broader automation project we're working on as part of our digitization efforts, so that means getting more automation into our quoting process, faster turnaround time for the channel, and more transparency in the order process. Those are all active projects that we have in place to support channel partners in sales execution and management, all the way through to delivery.

Will there be any channel program changes partner can expect this year?

We are really looking at how we amplify, enable and incentivize our channel partners to have that cross-sale motion. We are also taking a deep look at SD-WAN and making sure we have the right program in place to educate and accelerate our market-leading offer. We are looking to amplify that performance and reflect the capabilities we have on the [SD-WAN] product line. We will be doing a lot as it relates to SD-WAN and cross-selling.

As we cultivate our program with our other channel relationships, like our Cisco relationship and other ISV relationships, we will have go-to-market plays that agents can participate in. We're working though the approach, strategy and financial models around that.

What are the technology areas that partners should be looking at for 2019?

Customers are spending their dollars on SD-WAN. That growth is not going to slow down, and understanding that offering is critically important. Partners can use it as an entry sale and then really pivot to what can be added on top of that networking offering. The natural pivot we are seeing is then going after the UCaaS business. Obviously, that's directly tied to the cloud transition for many customers. Cloud implementation and migration has a tremendous amount of client interest, and we are seeing that [interest] when it comes to moving to a cloud-based UC model and, similarly, we see that with contact center as well.

Another major area is security. It's embedded in all our offerings—secure UCaaS, secure SD-WAN and secure contact center— it’s part of our core fabric. Understanding the security stack is critically important and it's probably an area that is recession-proof as a tech category.